Ivory & Gold
On May 4th, after appearing on Tea with Me an IGTV show with my friend and musician Jacob Lucero, he challenged me to write a ghost story that was out of order. I'll admit, this was not easy for me since I don't normally write ghost stories, but I'm fairly proud of how this one unfolded. In turn, I gave him the challenge to write the background music to Chapter 27 from my book. He did an awesome job, and you can check out the finished challenge here. Without further ado...
Jealousy had been a festering wound in her heart for years and now it had finally bled. Everything was wrong. No more paper and no more pens. No more ink. Cruor, this was the only color in her world now and it had been her doing.
A small patch of warm light fell upon her face, making her blink. She turned to the warming rays filtering into the silent space. The light, so pure, was much like the light that shined into the little garden where she loved to write. Today was a perfect day for a stroll through the place where she found beauty in a world that seemed to have none to spare for her. Yes, today she would wend her way through the tall hedges, taking in the sweet scent of roses, allowing the potpourri of the garden to seduce her into staying.
Blinking as she stepped into the mid-afternoon sun, she looked around at the walls of roses, a smile touching her lips. Easy steps took her through the maze of the hedges as she let the sun warm her cool skin. The snip, snip, snip of hedging shears told her Ormand was working in the southeast section. He was always busy keeping the garden just the way she liked it. Perfect lines and elegant petals made up the heart of the garden, and his committed attention to detail was why she loved talking to the ever-vigilant gardener. Often, She would monologue to him till her throat was dry, all the while Ormand would quietly listen to every word. He was truly the only one who understood her—who wasn’t afraid of her. He would even stop just to look at her, and it always made her feel beautiful. Wanted.
“Ormand, I have missed you,” Drysi said, stepping into his view.
“You saw me only yesterday, my dear, already you have missed me?” He asked, leaning back onto his heels. Setting aside his shears and gloves, the gardener removed his hat to wipe his forehead, the ebony strands of his hair reflecting a deep blue as the sun briefly warmed his head.
Obtaining a place on the nearby stone bench, she said, “Yes, you are the only one who understands me and who is not is not ashamed of me.” Diffidently, she arranged her skirts.
“I see nothing to be ashamed of,” Ormand commented as he moved to sit next to her for a short break.
He was the perfect height for gardening the tall hedges, sitting next to him Drysi felt small. But at least I don’t feel insignificant. Ormand turned grey eyes in her direction and gave her a soft smile. She always liked his smiles, recondite as it was. The compact and elegant curve of his lips always seemed to hold a secret. There were times Drysi didn’t trust what lay just beneath the surface, but she couldn’t help responding to the unstinting attention.
“You say that your daughter is the killer?” The detective asked.
No, that’s not what happened. She looked between her parents and the detective, but they didn’t see her. Typical, people usually ignored the least desirable thing in the room, and she claimed that status everywhere she went. Except, why, this time, did she not feel the usual weight of worthlessness? It was such a familiar feeling, like her favorite shawl draped about her shoulders. She used to feel it every day.
“She’s the only one who could have done it,” the sharp accusation left her father’s lips.
No, no, no...it was Ormand! He betrayed me.
A pitched wail came from her mother as she cried into a handkerchief. "My Henry, my sweet boy. How could she betray us like this? We’ve taken care of every need her entire life!" Her mother buried her face into her father’s shoulder.
But I didn’t betray you, mother. She pulled at her mother’s puffed sleeve.
"We were at the Adley’s dinner party when we came home to this. Any of the guests will be able to confirm our presence," her father commented.
"If only our Henry would have come with us!"
The detective scribbled a few words into his notebook. “Okay, Mr. and Mrs. Enfield, I will stop by if I need any additional information.”
I wish someone would listen to me! Drysi stamped her foot as the detective left without another glance back.
“What is on your mind today, Drysi?” Ormand asked, pleasant as ever. He dug his trowel into the soft earth, stirring up the soil to keep it aerated.
“My brother has just come home from university…and he is different,” she said, plopping onto the gravel path next to him.
“Different. Is that good or bad?”
“I’m not sure. I was hoping you could help me understand.”
“I will do my best, as always,” Ormand replied.
“I suppose I feel angry? I wish to learn, the same as him, but my parents are afraid of what people will think of my deformities. They will not let me leave home. Henry has gotten everything he ever asked for and he, too, for years found me repugnant, pretending I was invisible; and now upon his return from a higher education he wants to be my friend—a confidant. Why should he suddenly have the honor?”
“I am the only one who has ever been present with you,” Ormand said.
“Yes, I know, and you have my regard, but he does seem different now,” Drysi countered. “Shame no longer fills his countenance like it once did.” Quietly she added, “I wouldn’t mind another friend. Maybe I should give him a chance?”
A cold light crept into Ormand’s eyes. For the first time ever, he did not smile at her. “Why should you trust someone that has never been there for you?”
“I do not want to replace you, Ormand!”
“I should think not.”
Drysi picked at the seams of her dress. “No one except you has ever given me a chance to show who I really am, but Henry seems genuine in his pursuit.”
“Genuine or not, I am the one who never looked upon you differently. Have I not always kept the garden beautiful for you?” Ormand asked.
“Of course, and I am forever grateful!” She glanced around at the tall hedges. This section was decorated with lovely pink damask roses. “This place is a comfort to me.”
Ormand’s eyes softened.
Quietly, she added, “It’s just, Henry is my brother. I can tell that something has changed and that he may…truly love me.”
Ormand stood abruptly. “So, blood is thicker than water then.”
Drysi shied away from the darkness that tainted his words. Did he not understand? He was still her friend, her confidant, she just wanted to make room for one more. It would be nice not to be hated by everyone in her family. What was so wrong with that?
“For your own good, I cannot allow you to pursue a relationship with him. It will only end in heartbreak for you. I have seen you cry too many times to let you suffer more over false hope.” The gardener began to stride away.
“Ormand, wait, please! Don’t leave me!”
“I will not lose you to some upstart child. He will not take my place!”
Drysi let her head fall limply into her knees. Everything was such a mess.
Henry peered at his sister over the top of his book. The girl smiled, seemingly at nothing, as she held her gold and ivory fountain pen above the thick, cream-paged journal. Poor girl, he thought, she must be back in her rose garden again. He had read her journal enough, after she had gone to sleep, to know exactly where Drysi’s mind wandered when she gained blank looks.
Admittedly, as a younger man, he followed in his parent's footsteps with regard to his sister, until his education in psychology had shown him differently. Now, he had only sympathy for the young girl. It saddened him that his parents only saw her as a thorn and a burden. Her deformed features had hardened their hearts toward the intelligent girl since birth, so it was no surprise that she had created a world where she was always loved and accepted. Drysi began scribbling across the pages again. Henry refocused on the text, knowing one day he would have to take the object away from her so she could begin to heal.
Determined to help his sister, he wouldn’t concede until she was firmly in reality. Her rose garden and its Keeper were not a safe place for her mind to wander. The things he had read deeply troubled him. Drysi could be a gifted writer, but she needed to channel her thoughts in a different direction. She needed to realize that she was loved and cherished here, in this reality. Her gardener, the Keeper, was not real love. The poor girl didn’t know real love, thanks to the shame she had been shown her entire life. My sister will know true, unconditional love, even if it kills me.
Drysi looked at her brother’s body. The carpet around him was stained red because of her. She turned away, letting guilt remind her exactly what jealousy had wrought. She followed the trail of dark spots across the carpet to her body, covered in her brother’s blood and hers. Next to cold-stiff crimson fingers was her favorite pen. The slim raven-bodied fountain pen seemed to gleam in delight as the claret liquid congealed around the gold and ivory inlays. Drysi examined ethereal hands eternally stained with Henry’s lifeblood.
I’m sorry, Henry. I betrayed you…
She would never be at peace. Henry only wanted to be her friend, her brother, and she let her starvation for attention rule her emotions. Now neither of them had a chance at truly living. Her deepest thoughts, admirations, dreams...secrets, all of it locked away, only ever given to the gardener. What did Henry call him…the Keeper? That was accurate. Ormand certainly had kept her from the cardinal things in life. Her lip trembled. Words were her first comfort and her first love. She would never write again.